The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

21 August, 2016

Atherton Tablelands

Continued on the Savannah Way to Pinnarena Station Farm Stay (Nadine & Ronnie) which has only been open for 6 weeks.  They have lots of ideas for this farm stay but think they should have waited to open as no facilities available and cost was $10 per night for a piece of dirt to camp on, no facilities and no dump point.
Ronnie cooking pizza in the wood fired oven. 

Had sourdough Pizza - all you could eat for $18 per person which we thought was a bit expensive, but I gave it my best shot to get value for money.  Hope this venture works out for them as they are great couple and are giving it a red hot go! They have nearly completed the cafe (Nadine make a nice coffee) and have plans for amenities block and powered sites.  There is a few old trucks and machinery around the farm which was interesting for me to look at, some quite rare stuff.

Camping ground has graded sites.

Desoto tipper

Morris Commercial, Diesel motor

British Dodge - has some type of winch system on the back
This is a borer for water bores, has a winch cable system.
Headed to Ravenshoe via Kennedy Highway then onto Palmerston Highway to Millaa Millaa where we stayed the night.  Arrived early so went on drive to Millaa Millaa Falls where we saw catfish and tortises, then onto Zillie Falls and onto Elinjaa Falls where we walked down the steps to the Falls. Off the next day to Malanda then visited friends Chris & Mike at Lake Tinnaroo for coffee before heading onto Atherton then to Mareeba.  Stayed at Kerribee Park Campgrounds (Mareeba Rodeo Grounds) where we were positioned quite close to next van (very popular camp ground).

Millaa Millaa Falls

Zillie Falls from the top, decided not to walk dow to the bottom.

Elinjaa Falls

(Mareeba) Kerribee Rodeo Grounds, early morning ballon flights

As we house sat in Atherton for 2 months in 2014 we have seen a lot of the area so intended to revisit some places and catch up on ones we missed.  Headed down to Cairns for 2 nights as had Van booked in for replacement of gas element cut out valve and Toyota booked in for Service.  Stayed at Cairns Holiday Park - crowded, people everywhere, planes taking off/landing, trains and traffic!! Had a great catch up for lunch with Lyn & Tom who own the Cannon Park Motel (luckily they had a bit of time off) at the Botanical Gardens Cafe.  Great walking around the Gardens - lots of very different plants. Back to the Caravan Park to a Ukulele Jazz Session - interesting to say the least!!

Mareeba Multi Cultural Show

Spent 4 nights back at Mareeba Rodeo Grounds and returned to the Coffee Works for stock up of coffee.  Spent an afternoon at the Multi Cultural Show which was a free event and provided wonderful entertainment with dancing, singing, poetry from different countries represented in the Community, including Fiji, Tonga, Germany, Spain, South America, Indigenous Australia. Also had food stalls selling authentic dishes from different countries. We stayed until the end and left feeling very uplifted.  The Rodeo Grounds also hosted a Horse Event and Helen sat up in the stands watching little kids and junior section riding around obstacles trying to maneuver the course in the quickest time.

19 August, 2016


After Normanton we continued on the Savannah Way to Croydon where we stayed in the Caravan Park. What a surprise we got when visiting this town, starting with the wonderful Croydon True Blue Visitor Information Centre.  Here we watched an audiovisual of Croydon, saw the antique cars and looked in the heritage houses. Croydon had a very lucrative gold strike in 1885 and was once the third largest town in Queensland servicing an 18km long gold field.  We picked up the Walking Trail brochure and had a look around town including:
  • Exploring the Heritage Precinct which is a must as these buildings have been wonderfully restored. In the precinct there was the Police Sergeants Residence (1897), The Police Station (1896), Croydon Courthouse (1887) where you can sit and enjoy a case unfolding, Town Hall (1890) which is being used today as a Picture Theatre, Dance Hall and Live Music and Travelling Show venue.

Club Hotel built in 1887 is the last of 36 hotels once in Croyden

Croyden Town Hall built in 1890 with the original 1895 lamp posts on the footpath

Croydon Courthouse (1887) where you can sit and enjoy a case unfolding

Police Station built 1896

A Chinese headstone in the Chinese section.
 Cemetery - heritage listed and has operated since 1885. The old graves indicate the hardships of life on outback goldfields.

Lake Belmore - having coffee

Drove out to Lake Belmore which is approx 4kms from town where they have built a great facility for BBQs with huge shelter and table and chairs.  The view over the lake is lovely - we even spotted two crocodiles near the edge!!

Looked out over Croydon at Diehms Lookout
  • Federation Park/Anzac Park - sculptures by Hans Pehl, Blacksmith Artist.
  • Male Ward from the old Hospital  - originally built in 1894 but moved to make way for a new Hospital (still used for community events).
  • Rail Station - award winning steel replica replaced the original timber structure.  During tourist season the Gulflander train arrives from Normanton, returning the next day.
  • Old Butcher Shop - originally brought in from Little River approx 1940 but the iron and weatherboard structure collapsed in a storm in 1996 and was rebuilt from corrugated iron.
Metal artwork outside the information centre (on the right hand side!)

More artwork in the grounds of the information centre

Credit must be given to the community for establishing such a wonderful town to visit.

Left Croydon and travelled the Gulf Development Road (Savannah Way) towards Georgetown with storm clouds around us and weather very humid.  Stopped for lunch at Cumberland Dam approx 20kms west of Georgetown - nice free camp although quite a few vans already camped for the night. A brick chimney remains here from a Gold Mine.  Was looking for a bush camp but unable to find one suitable so opted for Mt Surprise Caravan & Motel which is a small park but lovely and only $18 for powered site!
Bird watching at Cumberland Historic Mine site

The remaining chimney at Cumberland Historic Mine

Before leaving the next day we stopped at the Market and bought some chutney which was pricey but locally made!  Only 2 stalls so did not take long before we headed off again.

17 August, 2016


Sunset from Karumba Point
Called into Normanton on our way to Karumba - just a quick call into the info centre as we were coming back this way again in a few days.

Out front of the caravan park on the Norman River

Old wharf on the Norman River
Stayed in Karumba for 3 nights at Karumba Lodge Caravan Park which is a fairly new set up with provision for 17 vans and is next to the Norman River.  The amenities are new and with the Pub next door offering 2 for 1 meals on Tues night was a bonus!  Hope they do well as would recommend to stay although being a new venture there were no established shady trees - just need time for the ones they have planted to grow.  With only 17 sites they will not be packing them in like sardines which looked to be the case with other Caravan Parks.  I was able to get my sutures removed at the Medical Clinic and all looked good. Also had a great ride around town and out to Karumba Point beach on the bike.  We went back with Hels to watch the sunset and saw a small croc feeding in the shallows.

A day of sightseeing consisting:
  • Live Cattle Export - first cattle transported in 1900 with export ceasing during WWII then starting again in the 1950's. Cattle are exported in the dry season to Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.
  • Raptis & Sons - originally a meat works in 1929 before going into liquidation, then "The Sausage King" purchased site and continued as a meat works (seasonally) until it burnt down in 1950s.  What was left was converted into a prawn processing plant which A Raptis & Sons purchased and was only used in peak season as most trawlers had better refrigeration.  Today all processing is done on board the vessel with product coming into town frozen and unloaded at this site.
  • Oil and foam storage facility for the flying boats - the foam was to extinguish fires by running a hose down to the boat ramp.
  • Artesian Bore - was the towns only water supply until 1988 when sulphuric content was deemed unsafe for consumption.
  • Sunderland Park - the towns Cenotaph looks out over the Norman River.
  • Karumba Point Beach - beautiful view over the Gulf of Carpentaria
Waiting for the sun to set eating fish and chips

Bought fish & chips, returned to the point, put the tail gate down on the Toyota and watched a magnificent sunset - even spotted a couple of crocodiles!  What a way to end the day!

Tree of Knowledge, appropriately by the boat ramp

Hels taking in the knowledge

Left Karumba and drove back to Normanton where we followed the Town Walk taking an interest in:

Replica of Krys
Krys' - replica of the largest estuarine crocodile in the world (8.63m long) shot by crocodile hunter Krystina Pawlowski

Burns Philp Building

Burns Philp Building - originally a general store in 1879 (now Library and Info Centre) with its colonial architecture and keeping the original facade in place.
  • Bank which has been restored and is now a private residence.
  • Cast Iron gutter plates and stone pitched gutters.
  • Albion Hotel - built in late 1880's in Croydon and relocated here in early 1900's.  Artist Percy Trezise originally painted characters on the bar which is now mounted on the wall of the pub creating an interesting feature.
Albion Hotel

Percy's bar hangs on the wall with painted characters
  • Railway Station - quite an architectural marvel where you can take a trip on the famous "Gulflander".
    Normanton Station

There are quite a few attractions in Normanton and well worth going to the Info centre for a brochure with map and history detail,  Of course the old Purple Pub is still standing although we opted for a nice cold beer at the Albion.

12 August, 2016

Mary Kathleen

After leaving Camooweal stopped at Mt Isa for fuel and topped up the water tanks, Emptied the 'shitter' and stocked up the fridge with food.  We noticed heaps of people in town as Rodeo started the next day.

Camped 58 km east Mt Isa at Mary Kathleen - in 1954 Uranium was discovered and by 1956 development had proceeded to the extent that a contract for the supply of 4,082 tonnes of Uranium oxide to the value of $80 million was negotiated to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).  Mary Kathleen township was located approx 5 kms from the mine site in a lovely valley at the convergence of two creeks.  Production ceased on 4th October 1963 after the contract tonnage had been produced - the plant and mine were then "mothballed" and placed on a maintenance basis until additional contracts could be negotiated.

Remains of Mary Kathleen town monument and fountain 
In 1970 contracts for the sale of uranium were finally obtained, a complete study of recommissioning was made in late 1971 and early 1972 and showed that a viable operation could be mounted.  In 1982 the contract for Uranium oxide was filled and it was decided to close the mine and disband the township due to oversupply of Uranium on the world market.  Operations ceased and the houses were sold, everything else was auctioned off on Easter Weekend 1984 (was said to be Australia's largest auction)

What was originally the bank site - all that remains are the tiles
This place is unreal as all that remains are part of the road systems, parks & concrete slabs of the once existing buildings which formed part of a community of 1,000 people.  No problems finding a camp site as the area is huge and the scenery is beautiful.

What the houses at Mary Kathleen looked like (this one was transferred to Cloncurry Museum)

Next day we drove out to Mine Site - the size of the open cut is quite extensive, covering at least 1-2kms in length - en-route to the mine we came across a few camels just roaming around.  Back from the mine we drove around the town and with the aid of a township map saw where different buildings were situated incl  Bowling club, tennis courts, basketball courts, school site, library, bank, Town Office, Medical Centre, Fire Station, Police Station, PO (even had small slabs where telephone booths would have been), Wet Mess. Also drove out to Clem Walton Park, through Station gate to Camp Site - very stagnant water.  Had a quick look at Corella Dam and was shocked at the number of vans now camped there!  In the cool of the evening we had a walk around the 'town' and could not believe that so little remains.

Just keeping an eye on us!

Mary Kathleen mine site

Morning Tea stop at ruins of the mine plant

Mine plant ruins - huge concrete foundations as part of the process plant

Had some sad news on our departure as our friend Stephen from Susan River had passed away - cheers to a wonderful man we were so fortunate to meet.

Drove to Cloncurry then travelled on the Burke Development Road towards Normanton, stopping on the way at Burke & Wills Roadhouse for lunch and an icecream!  About 10kms before our camp spot at Bang Bang we came across heaps of termite mounds looking very much like city buildings, maybe another lost city!

City of termite mounds - pity they don't mow the lawn!!

Found a magic camp site out the back of Bang Bang free camp where we stayed for 2 nights.

Campsite at Bang Bang

06 August, 2016

Leaving the Territory

Just before we left Darwin I needed to have a small lump cut out, so visited Dr Sam who had previously removed other skin imperfections.  I'm sure he enjoys using the scalpel, so this made his day - anyway he did a great job and has healed up really well.  On our departure Charlie's wife made us a carrot cake - what a lovely gesture.

Marlow Lagoon camp at Charlies, only 3 sites

Our first night out was back at Gorrie Airstrip (approx 30km south of Mataranka).  Not alone tonight as approx 10 other vans camped the night.  Cold snap from down south filtered through to top end and morning temperature was down to 14 degrees, we noticed the chilly change!  Turned off the Stuart Highway at Daly Waters and travelled on Carpentaria Highway towards Borroloola.  At Cape Crawford turned onto Tablelands Highway and was going to stay at bush camp approx 10km down the track however could not get van in (too narrow a track) so had to go back to Cape Crawford Caravan Park for the night.   Travelled down the Tablelands Highway towards Barkly Homestead where we ran into Rob & Helen from SA, members of the Mitsubishi 4WD club, and after a chat and coffee we headed to Camooweal, camping the night at Wonarah Bore Free Camp.  Called into another nice spot to camp the next day - second bore approx 120kms west of Camooweal, so will keep in mind.

Stayed at Camooweal second billabong (Lake Canellan) for 4 nights and could have stayed for more but needed to move on.  During this time we enjoyed the birdlife including Brolga dancing, white neck herons, white faced herons, whistling kites, freckled duck, darters, fork tailed kites, peewees, plubers, ibis & pelicans - that we recognized, probably many more could be identified with a trained eye.  Even had Census lady deliver our form for completion, which we completed and posted before we left Camooweal.

Our front yard view at Lake Canellan - 2nd Camooweal billabong

Being entertained by Brolga dancing

This little buggar would wait until egret was digesting fish then flew down and hassle until egret 'threw up' and he would grab the fish

Circle of pelicans dislodging fish from reeds